JUNKYARD ANGELS – Coming Out, and Other End of the World Stories
There’s a popular meme in the world right now inspired by the Mayan Calendar, which suggests that THE WORLD WILL END IN 2012! It’s a dramatic and exciting idea to be sure but it’s also misleading and inaccurate.
For one thing, there is at least a decade’s worth of leeway, so any actual change may yet be a dozen years off still. In fact in his book “The Age of Spiritual Machines” Ray Kurzweil posits that 2020 is a much more realistic year. By then, computers will have the capability to surpass their creator in every way, including intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Thinking about that for longer than even a few seconds is a dance with madness. But it leads to the next inevitable conclusion which in turn further reveals the meme to be false, because in prognostication phrasing is everything, and what the Mayan’s predicted was not the End of the World, but THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT.
And as Kurzweil makes clear, not only is the “as we know it” the crucial part of the prediction, but the world as “we knew it” has ended any number of times throughout the course of history. The world ended circa 30CE when a man delivered his sermon from the mount and told his countrymen to “treat others as you would be treated”, the safe predictable and recognizable world ended again in 1454CE when, with the advent of the printing press. It could be argued that the “world as we knew it” ended again at the end of the 18th century. There were those who believed traveling in one of those new fangled steam locomotives at an astonishing 40MPH would mutate and deform the human anatomy. Which it did of course, but probably not in any way that the prognosticators of the time could predict. But the ability to travel ANYWHERE in the world has changed the very definition of the words “family” “race” even “world”. It’s as if the World has “Come of Age”, or perhaps, the world has “Come Out”, because it’s entirely possible that the two are one and the same, and as Kurzweil pointed out, phrasing is everything.
“When did you come out?” This is perhaps the most common and most important questions asked on the first date of a budding Gay Romance. I’ve heard the question countless times and have asked it countless more. Although there is no right or wrong answer perse, I assure you that when asked, you had better answer correctly (or more importantly HE best answer correctly when you ask HIM!) lest the date as you know it end right then and there. But as exciting and dramatic as that question is, it like our introductory prediction is misleading and inaccurate; because, also like the end of the world, “Coming Out” is a continual recurring process. What’s more, this process is not limited to the GLBTQ community, because everyone is tasked with the responsibility of “Coming Out” at various points in their lifetime, and each and every time, for that individual, the world as they knew it ends.
But here’s the great part – Each and every time the world ends, a brand new one begins!
“When did you come out?” When asked this question, I will usually answer that I came out when I was 19, in college; I’d just broken up with my High School girlfriend and realized that my new roommate was the most beautiful human being on the planet. It was late and we’d been drinking, playing Nintendo, giving each other shit and catcalling each other like College Boys are wont to do… and I looked over at him and confessed. It seems so simple in retrospect, those 3 words, “I love you.” And yet it heralded the end of everything. Upon looking closer I realized that he was asleep… My world was coming to an end, and he’d slept through it all.
That’s what I tell people but it’s not entirely true. I’d Come Out long before that night, before even the breakup with my girlfriend. On July 4th 1994, at the age of 17, the world as I knew it ended when I moved out of my mother’s house, and headed off to college to start living in the New World. The old one had ended and in many ways the new one was beyond my ability to even imagine, but I adapted and continued on. As we all do. In a very real sense, on that July 4th, I’d “Come Out” without even knowing it.
But this world ended in November of 2003, 7 years after my confession of eternal love to my drunken roommate went unheard. I was running a business with my then domestic partner. We had started and ran a company that provided rehabilitation services to individuals with mental and physical disabilities. The job was not glorious in any way, but every single day I was shocked and humbled by being able to witness personal acts of courage and determination that changed my world. This constant state of reinvention, of alternating success and failure became my world.
But it ended, when I discovered my partner had embezzled some 70-thousand dollars and skipped town. The company folded, the house foreclosed, the dogs were put up for adoption, and I abandoned everything and everyone I knew – and moved to Los Angeles with nothing to my name but a car payment and a credit card debt. The world as I knew it ended, but I came out to Los Angeles, changed careers, made new friends, and a new world had begun.
Shortly after that move, I fell in love with a boy. But his stay in LA was brief. We kept in touch loosely for a few years and then he kind of dropped out of contact. In 2006 I learned that he’d been mugged and beaten almost to the point of death In the following year, he’d gone through 7 surgeries, and lost an arm. His online profile said, “But what can you do but heal, wait to get better, and adapt to your new life. (Even if you were happy with the one you had.)”
I can only think that his world ended, that night in 2006. But reading his profile, and seeing him with his prosthetic-arm was so jarring, so profoundly disturbing to what I knew to be true – I couldn’t do anything but weep. I cried for him and fell in love with him again. And wished he had been in California and that there was something I could do for him. But that was just futile wishing, a fiction created by my brain trying to adapt to a world, or an aspect of a world, that I no longer recognized.
Science Fiction has always been about the how we as a culture, as a race, as people handle change. “Change” specifically as it pertains to technology and how that transforms our world into something we no longer recognize. It’s always been about Coming Out. Out of antiquity, out of the shadows, out of ignorance. The proverbial closet can take any shape the author can imagine. In a way, Sci-Fi, or rather Psy-Fi has always been about how Mankind is to deal with it’s own Coming of Age and the End of the World (as we know it). It’s equal parts terrifying and fascinating. The author, and by extension the reader is forced to ask, “Is this new world one that we, that I can survive in? If I can, would I even want to?”
JUNKYARD ANGELS addresses this question head on in the guise of a Robot-Zombie Survival Apocalypse tale. The story, perhaps like every story from GLBTQ community, and possibly every psy-fi story, is about “Coming Out” and “Coming of Age” both for the hero and the world itself. Our hero-with-a-prosthesis, “Jason” is forced to deal with the End of his World and the beginning of a new one. One that he’s not sure he can survive in. It all starts with the mysterious suicide of his boyfriend. But no sooner has he begun to deal with his own grief and feelings of loss, he’s expelled from his mother’s house and into a world he no longer recognizes. If he is to survive, he must adapt to a new life (even if he was happy with the one he had- and he was). Although Jason’s first instinct is to hide away from the changes, he soon learns that the only way to survive in this new world is to step up, take courage, and “Come Out” into this dangerous world.
For Jason, as with all of us, “Coming Out” is a continual process. The story being told takes place in a dystopic future. The world as we know it ends on the very first page of JUNKARD ANGELS, and it ends again on the last page. The question asked, the question that Jason has to answer is, “Will the new world that begins be one where I can survive? And if so, do I even want to?” How does our hero answer that question?
But more importantly, how do we answer that question? How do any of us answer that question? Coming Out in this day and age is a continual process; every thing we do, every action we take, every thought we have, creates a new world, and destroys the old one. This happens to every single one of us, every day.
The world as you know it has already ended. What defines the new one you’re entering? And is it one you want to live in (assuming you can)?
Are you ready to “Come Out”? Again?
Junkyard Angels continues with new stories September 18th, right here at doorQ.com.
Catch up here.